What You Need to Know About Postpartum Depression

postpartum depression

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression, also known as PPD is a mood disorder that occurs in women soon after giving birth. During the weeks after childbirth, a mother goes through many emotions that can be very positive, but can also be negative. More than just the baby blues, postpartum depression can be in the form of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion, making it hard to care for yourself and a child.

What causes postpartum depression?

It is likely the combination of physical and emotional factors, but is NOT caused by anything the mother does or does not do. At childbirth, hormone levels quickly drop which leads to chemical changes in the mother’s brain, which can trigger mood swings. Emotional stressors and changes in relationships can also increase the risk of PPD.

Who is at risk for postpartum depression?

All women who previously had a baby are at the risk for postpartum depression, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or economic background. However some women are at a greater risk. These are the risk factors that increase the chances for postpartum depression:

  • Symptoms of depression during or after a previous pregnancy
  • Previous experience with depression or bipolar disorder at another time in life
  • A family member diagnosed with depression or mental illness
  • A stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after birth
  • Complications during childbirth or taking care of an infant that is challenging
  • Mixed feelings about the pregnancy
  • Lack of support from friends, family or spouse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse problems
  • Preterm delivery or a neonatal intensive care baby
  • Unemployment and/or financial instability

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

Everyone is different and the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression vary from mother to mother. Symptoms can begin within days or weeks of childbirth. Sometimes, it can take months for these symptoms to occur. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms below, you should contact your doctor immediately. There are many symptoms of postpartum depression including:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, empty, angry, guilty or irritable
  • Crying more often and sometimes for no apparent reason
  • Worrying and the feeling of anxiety and having racing thoughts
  • Feeling moody and/or restless
  • Oversleeping or being unable to sleep at all, especially at times when the baby is asleep
  • Restlessness or sluggishness that can result in the inability to get out of bed
  • Having trouble with memory and often forgetting details
  • Not being able to concentrate or make decisions
  • Experiencing anger and/or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Changes in eating habits including loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble forming an emotional attachment with the baby
  • Doubting the ability to take care of the baby
  • Excessive worry about the baby or lack of interest in your baby
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or the baby*

*Having thoughts of harm is a serious and urgent matter. If you are experiencing this, contact your provider immediately.

How can you treat postpartum depression?

There are effective treatments for postpartum depression, so it’s important to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms. Treatments range from mother to mother and can be anything from counseling to medication.Counseling and/or talk therapy involves talking with a mental professional one-on-one. Cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy have been proven to be effective in treating postpartum depression.

While PPD can go away on its own, symptoms can go away quicker with the help of your doctor. You can also implement a few lifestyle changes including increasing the amount of sleep you get, exercising, surrounding yourself with positive and caring people, eating regularly and asking for help.

Why is it important to seek treatment?

Motherhood can be stressful and scary to navigate this new role. If left untreated, postpartum depression can last anywhere from a few months to even years. Not only does this affect the mother’s health, but it can also affect the baby. For more information on postpartum depression, please visit this page.